Theses Doctoral

Growth Mindset in the Elementary Music Classroom

Hare, Jill Perkins

Each music teacher steps into their classroom as an educator shaped by their unique life experiences. Former music teachers, ensemble participation, culture, media, teacher education, and family dynamics are just a few of the influences that make each music teacher unique. Acknowledged or not, these factors shape the verbal messages of music teachers in the classroom.

This study explored how elementary music teachers explicitly share what they believe about the potential of their students’ musical ability through verbal messages during instruction. Symbolic interactionism was used as the theoretical framework for this study because it helps explain how people attach meaning to language through social interactions. Carol Dwek’s growth mindset research was the lens for the theoretical framework.

The growth mindset framework of Dweck was adapted for music in this study to help teachers identify and reflect on their mindset and explore how applicable it might be as a framework for music educators to foster growth in developing musicians. This intervention study recruited four elementary music teachers. Interviews, classroom observations, a Likert scale survey, open-ended questions, and reflection prompts were used to collect data. Each instrument's design was built on Dweck’s research regarding mindset identification but adapted for musical ability. The four research questions sought to capture the experiences of participants from their existing knowledge of growth mindset practices to observable changes after the growth mindset intervention.

The data were analyzed and coded to find evidence of fixed and growth mindsets explicitly in elementary music instruction before and after the growth mindset was used as an intervention. This study showed that a growth mindset framework can only be observed through verbal messages when opportunities for skill development are authentically facilitated. The bulk of verbal examples presented in this study indicate that a growth mindset is embedded in the scaffolding of effective teaching strategies. Triggers of a fixed mindset with verbal examples are presented with implications for practice and suggestions for future research.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Custodero, Lori
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 21, 2024